Is Living Streams an Affirming Church?
This is a question I was asked recently, and it is a question I love to answer. I am not sure those asking it love my answer, but I do love the question.
When asked this question, I assume the person asking either feels sexual attraction to people of the same sex, or they care about someone who does. I have been asked this question by different types of people.
- Sometimes I am asked by a person who wants to let out some anger that has built up from wrestling with a society and church that has often treated poorly people with homosexual desires.
- Sometimes, I am asked by a person who is not angry and wounded. They are resolved that their Jesus is okay with their sexual activities and their definition of marriage, and they want to be part of a church where others think and believe like they do.
- Other times, I am asked by someone who is trying to honestly wrestle out the conflict between their feelings toward Jesus, their knowledge of the Christian Scriptures, and their sexual desires for the same sex.
Whatever the case may be, I can imagine the difficulty of growing up in a culture—whether sacred or secular—where something so intense, personal and formative as your sexual desires are different from the vast majority of the world around you. The isolation, insecurity, and identity-questioning that must come from feeling different from all the people in your family, your school, and the movies you watch, must be very difficult. Add to the pain a society and church that has responded to the LGBT community with the worthless, hurtful tactics of making fun, shaming, and saying, “Just stop it.”
This next statement may sound abrupt, but please hear me out on this (and email me if you need more clarification):
I do not think it is wrong or sinful to feel sexual desires for people of the same sex.
Wherever you stand today—whether you feel sexual desires for the same sex, opposite sex or both sexes—the desire is not inherently right or wrong. In James 1:15, Christian Scriptures teach that desire turns to sin when it becomes action. So, what we do with those desires matters greatly.
Jesus gave us more specifics on this when He taught that the act of turning a sexual desire into sin can happen in our thought life or in physical life. He said it this way, “You know the next commandment pretty well, too: ‘Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.’ But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt.” —Message Translation
Now, to the question: Is Living Streams an affirming church?
Here is my answer:
Do we affirm that a person who is a member of the LGBT community can be welcomed into God’s family?
Yes. Absolutely. We believe God so loved all the people of the world, that He sent His son, Jesus, to die on the cross for everyone who would follow in His footsteps—including every person with LGBT sexual desires. And we believe, in time, that Jesus, through His Holy Spirit, will lead them out of all of their lifestyles that are not congruent with a follower of Jesus, just like He does for everyone who decides to follow Him.
Do we affirm that all sexual activity outside the Biblical concept of marriage—whether in thought or deed—is not God’s best plan for humanity?
Yes. We all have to resist something. We all have desires and thoughts that are not leading us into God’s best for us. To that I say, “Welcome to the resistance!” We have so much unity in our humanity. Those with LGBT desires have to resist those desires in order to find God’s best for them. Those with heterosexual desires have to resist all sexual desires and thoughts toward those they are not married to, in order to find God’s best for them. Whether they may be in a pre-marriage, marriage, or post-marriage season of life, resistance is prescribed by the Christian Scriptures.
Now, I wouldn’t blame anyone at this point if they said, “Yeah, easy for you. You may say we are all together in the resistance, but you get to partake in sex because you just so happen to have sexual desires in line with God’s best plan for humanity, and you are married in accordance with the Biblical concept of marriage. So, good for you, you get to be happy and tell everyone not like you that they are doomed to be unhappy.”
I get what you are saying, but I would positively and publicly state and assert something else:
Do we affirm that our society has convinced itself that happiness cannot be experienced or maintained without sexual activity?
Yes. we affirm that our society believes this, and we affirm that it is a lie. Sex is a grand production, but we have made it too big of a deal. Jesus is said to have been anointed with oil of gladness above everyone else, yet He was celibate for His entire life.
You may say, “Yeah, but He was holy Jesus!” Well, we are also told that Jesus was tempted in every way that is common to man.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. —Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV
Track with me here. Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are.” And so, those who are tempted with anything that is not God’s best for them have an ally in Jesus. Those who have homosexual desires can find an ally in Jesus. Those with bi-sexual desires can find an ally in Jesus. Those with transgender and gender identity issues can find an ally in Jesus. He knows what you feel and think. He resisted every temptation and showed us God’s best for humanity.
In addition to that, His life was full and content and filled with gladness. And if you will follow in His footsteps you will find your life being filled with His joy like a fountain inside your soul. That is not my promise to you, that is Jesus’ promise to you.
Peace to you as you wrestle to find truth in this wild world,